Japanese Textbooks

Hello everyone.
I was curious about which textbook to use for my studies. I am currently studying Chinese and wanted to add Japanese into the mix seeing as I will travel there in a few years (I currently live in Taiwan).

I have been studying the textbook series Practical Audio Visual Chinese for my Chinese studies, but I haven’t been able to find anything comparable for Japanese. I have been using Human Japanese, but I would really like to find a regular textbook that I could order for study. If anyone has some suggestions on where to start I would be really grateful.

I don’t have much experience with textbooks (yet), but I guess most people will recommend either Genki I-II, the Minna no nihongo series (or maybe the Japanese from Zero series – the author also has some really useful videos on his YouTube channels, search for “Japanese in 5”).

Resources I found useful for self-study (actually, only the first one is a real textbook):

  • Teach Yourself Complete Japanese:

    • big con: full of roomaji (latin characters), in some editions, there are separate explanations for the very basics of reading and writing, but the advanced read-write book has to be bought additionally. I’d recommend learning both kinds of kana before ever opening this book, and then writing all your notes and test question answers using them (and, since you already know Chinese, perhaps, using kanji as well). Comes with 2 CDs, but the sample dialogs have really big pauses in them. I guess you’re supposed to repeat what you’ve heard during those pauses, but if you talk along with the voice actors, these pauses are more annoying than useful - I keep removing them with audio editor software as I’m walking through the lessons. Sometimes grammar explanations don’t expand all the details and usages of a construction or a phrase so I need to do additional research to figure those out.
    • pro: introduces grammar and vocab in a logical, easy to follow order, so it can be used as a roadmap for self-studying. It can get you to a workable level reallseriesy quickly. After 3-4 months (of 1-2 hours a day) study, I started attending local Japanese language meetups, and understood a fairly large part of the conversation, and was able to answer some questions and talk briefly about a few topics.
  • Jisho.org: the online dictionary, make a bookmark for it in all your browsers, on all your devices.

  • JapanesePod101: not a textbook, but a podcast series, useful by itself, or done additionally, in parallel with any kind of course.

    • con: you’ll need a separate email address or some really good filtering capabilities, because they send vocab lists, newsletters and things like that every day. It has monthly subscription, but the first week is completely free, however, you need to be careful not to forget to turn your subscription off after the first week if you don’t like it, since if you don’t cancel it, then the system automatically assumes you want to keep being subscribed, and will charge your credit card accordingly. I often find the grammar explanations a little too brief (at least in the beginner series), so I need to search around for more detailed explanations and more example sentences.
    • pro: they have fun lessons, really good crew (many Japanese native voice actors), useful vocab, and the mp3s for the dialogs contain kanji, kana-only and English transcriptions in the lyrics, so if you have a player capable of displaying those (most smartphones for example), you can keep studying and practicing during breaks any time of your day. Also, if you are willing to pay, they have JLPT practice test questions, forums, and who knows what else online tools to help with learning and practising. Also, I often see the Japanese native crew members answering questions of students both in the forum and in the comment sections of the lessons.
  • George Trombley’s “Japanese in 5 minutes” series on YouTube: useful practical tips and explanations, tips&tricks, etc. Whatever textbook you end up using, I’d recommend watching a random one of George’s videos every once in a while in addition.

  • The “fluentjapanese” channel on YouTube: brief explanations of various grammar concepts with many useful example sentences. My recommendation is the same as above.

Whatever book you end up using, I recommend extending them with other, easy to consume resources, so you can utilize idle parts of your day (like coffee breaks, standing in queues, public transport, etc.) in addition to regular studies.


Thanks for all of the great resources Althoshun.
I will definitely be lookng over all of those this month.I will probably finish Human Japanese first as the rate I’m going I should be done within a month. After that I will try those textbooks you mentioned. I already learned all of the Kana, so that is not a problem.

I don’t anticipate too much trouble from Kanji as I’m already well over 2300 Chinese characters. anticipating learning another 600 this month alone

I will try to get some of those podcast you mentioned as I’m constantly traveling everyday. I’m also going to be doing language exchange over Line/Skype three times a week.Going pretty hardcore with it to try and get to JLPT 1 by 2017.

Thanks again for all of the help, I really appreciate it.

I’ve just found out about a book that seems to be very promising after reading through some 50-60 pages of it: Tae Kim’s Japanese Grammar Guide. It’s available with a CC license at http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar (there are apps and a downloadable PDF version for offline use as well), and since its approach is very different from a standard textbook, it may answer a lot of questions that might pop up during walking through a course (e.g. I’ve seen a lot of explanations for the difference between the particles は and が, but the one in this is one of the most insightful ones).

Thanks again Athoshun.

You have been an invaluable guide to all of these resources that I wouldn’t have found on my own. I really appreciate the time you have taken to post information and links about them.